German Chancellor Angela Merkel has survived a confidence vote after lawmakers narrowly backed her preferred candidate to be the country’s next president.
625 member of parliament cast ballots for 51-year-old Christian Wulff, the conservative premier of Lower Saxony, while democracy activist Joachim Gauck won 494 votes.
70-year-old Gauck was the candidate put forward by the Social Democrats and the Left Party.
The election went to a third and final run-off as no candidate got an absolute majority in the first two rounds.
Wulff, a deputy leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party, becomes Germany’s youngest-ever head of state.
The position became available after Horst Köhler resigned when he appered to suggest in an interview that Germany would be justified in taking military action to protect its economic interests.
The wafer-thin victory will be a boost for Merkel as she seeks to reassert her authority as chancellor amid public criticism of her handling of the economic crisis.
Support for Merkel’s coalition with the pro-business Free Democratic Party is at an historic low following her announcement of tough austerity measures and her approval for a bailout of debt-stricken Greece.
Latest polls say just 36 percent of Germans support the coalition, 12 points lower than before the September election.